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Canadian Peacekeeping Stories

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On this page, you will find stories by current and former Canadian peacekeepers about their adventures, hardships, humorous incidents, and so on. They are true stories and reflect what our peacekeepers go through during their tour of duty. I certainly hope that you enjoy reading them. (NOTE: All stories are copyright by their respective contributors.)

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Making too Much Noise!! || I am Canadian... || A Christmas I'll Never Forget

A Christmas I'll Never Forget

Submitted by: Kurt Grant

Excerpt taken from the personal diary of Kurt Grant;
"In the Service of Peace, Diary of a Canadian Peacekeeper in Yugoslavia"

Just before Christmas, the battalion commander arranged for each of the platoons within the battalion to have a day off in celebration of the traditional Christian holiday. Our platoon happened to have its turn on Christmas Eve. A feast had been laid on for us, complete with turkey and all the fix'ns. Our cook truly out did himself trying to make things just a little bit like home for us, and his efforts were more than appreciated. What follows is the entry from my diary for the next day.

Sunday, Christmas Day, 25 Dec. 1994

"Wasn't that a party..." (goes the song by the Irish Rovers). This place is as quiet as a church on a Monday morning.

It was the morning of Christmas
and all through the camp,
not a creature was stirring
Not even the camp dog,
Who was sleeping off an alcoholic haze.

When I passed the poor little guy this morning, he was still passed out and snoring up a storm having ingested massive amounts of beer provided by last night's party goers. Steve showed up in my ISO at 08:35 and asked if I would co-drive him to Bruska to pick up a sergeant who had to go back to the main camp. We'd picked up a sergeant and an officer from HQ company to fill in for us while we celebrated until we could return to our posts.

S.O.P. requires a minimum of three people in an observation post by night, and only two by day. I had to get up to take a leak anyway, so I agreed. Besides, aside from one or two stalwart individuals on duty, there really wasn't anyone else who could have done it, everyone else in camp was still asleep. On the way out the door I grabbed my camera, and after dropping the sergeant off in the base, I asked Steve if we could make a detour on the way back to camp and swing by the cemetery we had visited on one of our patrols.

We rolled to a stop at the side of the road below the cemetery, the engine of the Iltis spluttering to a halt as Steve and I threw open the doors and stepped out into the cool air of Christmas morning. Rifles in hand, we skirted the perimeter wall that marked the hallowed ground, and made our way up the small rise towards the gate. We came to a pile of rubble that had once been a bell tower outside the main entrance, then passed through what remained of the gate, where we came to a stop and just stared.

The sky was dark and overcast with gray heavy clouds. In the distance across the valley, the clouds came down to meet the tops of the blue green hills, and on the ground, there lay two or three inches of freshly fallen snow. Spread out before us lay the destruction wrought by a vengeful people.

The air was heavy with the smell of moisture, yet everything was incredibly still and quiet, the kind of deafening quiet that you get when you are standing in the woods just after a snow storm and nothing has had a chance to start moving yet, not even the air. It seemed appropriate for this holiest of mornings. And yet, despite the stillness you could hear everything. Steve was standing ten feet from me when he whispered an exclamation at the sight that lay before us and the sound carried as if he were standing beside me talking aloud.

We began to move, picking our way between the open graves and scattered human remains as we worked our way towards the center of the graveyard, conscious as we moved that someone might have paid a recent visit and left a booby trap behind, and that we could very easily add our own bodies to the remains of those scattered about us. There would be no one to call for help. Nobody knew we were here. We moved slowly. As we walked I took several pictures to record for posterity what I was seeing. I needn't have bothered. What I saw there on that morning will remain with me the rest of my life.

Wordlessly, we moved towards the middle of the graveyard and what had once been its most prominent landmark, the chapel. All that was left of the structure was its outline, all four walls were no higher than two feet above the foundation. It was obvious that someone had used powerful explosives to destroy it, because the rubble radiated out from the center of what was left of the building, and seemed to cover the entire area of the cemetery.

At one end of the chapel, to the left of what had once been its entrance, there was a hole in the floor that was filled with bones. The cover had been broken and pushed aside exposing the bones to the elements. There was no way of telling how many bodies had been piled on top of each other.

As I knelt beside the opening, looking down at the collection of bones, I felt a cold shiver run up my back and all the hair on my neck stand on end. It was a nightmarish experience to look into the tangled mass of bones and see the empty eye sockets of a skull looking back at you. We continued on, weaving our way through the rubble, looking in open graves and side stepping bones. All the time stunned at what we were seeing. Time seemed to stand still as we moved about, each of us on his own journey through the graveyard until Steve looked at his watch and made a sign that we should be getting back.

As with most important experiences in life, it is only in retrospect that the true magnitude, or significance of what you've just been through hits you. I had focused on being a good observer, recording what I saw as we moved about through the graveyard and it is only now, as I write this, that I feel the full weight of what I was doing on Christmas morning 1994.

While I stood surrounded by the evidence of so much hatred, other than shaking my head in disbelief, I was not overly moved. Perhaps it was more than my senses could take in, I don't know, but as we drove away from the graveyard, I felt an overwhelming urge to apologize to the dead, both for what had been done to them, and for my adding to the insult by taking pictures. I wanted to say a prayer of some sort, but not really being experienced at that, I sort of composed it, jumbled in with snippets of distracted thoughts, and left it unsaid.

We had been in the area for only half an hour or so, and as we wandered around pointing to things we found, neither of us had said a word. What could you say? What kind of logic drives a man to kill someone out of hatred, then continue on to that persons most sacred of places and commit this kind of crime? The thinking that would lead someone to commit this level of desecration was utterly alien to both of us. Perhaps that's a good thing.

When we climbed back into the Iltis and drove off towards camp, we didn't look at each other, we didn't comment on what we'd seen, and we haven't mentioned it since, but it was clear we'd both been moved in ways we couldn't express.

As I sit here in my ISO trailer, I am reminded of a poem by William Blake that seems to sum up my feelings of the mornings experience;

Oh for a voice like thunder, and a tongue to drown the voice of war,
When the soul is driven to madness, who can stand?
When the souls of the oppressed fight in the troubled air that rages,
Who can stand?
When the whirlwind of fury comes from the throne of God,
When the frowns of his countenance drive the nations together,
Who can stand?
When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle, and sails rejoicing in the flood of death,
When the souls are torn to everlasting fire, and fiends of Hell rejoice upon the strain,
Oh who can stand?
Oh who has caused this?
Oh who can answer at the throne of God?
The Kings and the Nobles of the land have done it,
Hear it not Heaven, thy ministers have done it!

- * -

Canadian Flag

I am Canadian...

by: MCpl Frank Misztal

  • I wear combats, not fatigues and I work for a "lef-tenant", not a "loo-tenant".

  • I drive an Iltis, not a Jeep or a Humvee and the weapon I carry for my protection is a C7, not an M16.

  • I observe from, or take cover in, a trench and not a foxhole.

  • I don't just speak English or French, nor am I bilingual. I can speak many languages.

  • Although I am trained to fight in a war, I don't cause them.

  • When I am not deployed on a mission of peace, I travel all over my country; fighting forest fires, battling floods, rescuing lost souls or repairing damages caused by an ice storm.

  • I try not to take sides and believe in treating all humanity equally.

  • I don't just go on patrols; I also clear landmines to make the area safe for everyone.

  • In my off-duty hours while deployed, I occupy myself by rebuilding schools or playgrounds and, I teach children in a war-torn country about peace and harmony.

  • I am my country's best ambassador and I am respected the world over for what I do best.

  • I carry my country's flag shamelessly and hold my head up high wherever I go.

  • My name is Frank, and I am... a proud Canadian peacekeeper.
  • Making too Much Noise!!

    Submitted by: Mike Pitre

    When I was serving with The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai, Egypt, I was tasked to assist with the Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) required before the General did his inspection the following week. My area of responsiblity was the Colombian Battalion, who had many observation posts in the Sinai Desert.

    Upon landing at one checkpoint, I had noticed that the windsock (which the pilots used to give them an indication of the winds they would use for the direction of taking off and landing) was in fact pointing the wrong way. After walking up the hill and then undoing the stand that held the windsock in place, I had noticed that it was in fact welded to the pole, letting it fly only one way. I found the Colombian Officer and through an interpretor found out it was indeed welded because it was making way too much noise when the boys were sleeping at night. He then assured me that it would be fixed before the General's visit the following week...

    This page and contents are copyright © 1996 - 2013 Frank Misztal.
    Kingston, ON, Canada